Club kids

A group of young people and professional artists come together for a community project called Paint Club

“Yellow (Happy)” by The Paint Club.

“Yellow (Happy)” by The Paint Club.

An artist can often feel alone. Isolated. Filled with big dreams that can’t always be translated into reality.

Kind of like being a teenager.

Jim Zlokovich believes that artistic experience can be—and should be—a deeply communal one. He also believes that the adolescent experience can be a healthy, creative one. And so he started Paint Club.

It began several years ago when Zlokovich met Evan Dent, an art student at the University of Nevada, Reno. Zlokovich, a longtime artist and former Hollywood set designer, took Dent under his wing and began to work on large-scale black and white paintings with him. Then, in 1998, Zlokovich decided to bring in some young folk—about half a dozen girls, all around 9 years old, with little previous art experience. Zlokovich, who works for the Washoe County School District, got permission to paint murals on school walls. Under Zlokovich’s guidance, the girls started bringing the walls to life, decorating them with flowers, peace signs, rainbows and the like.

“People say, ‘Why do you have all girls?’ “ Zlokovich says. “Girls stay focused, and they have this intuitiveness.”

Over time, Paint Club grew. The girls didn’t paint just murals, but settled themselves into a UNR art studio for some painting. And talking.

“The girls come in and say, ‘Oh, my grades suck,’ “ Zlokovich says. “I say, ‘Put [those feelings] on the canvas.’ “

Zlokovich says that he, Dent and the smattering of other professional artists who drop by for Paint Club are only there to organize and lend a helping hand. The girls are the ones putting brush to canvas. They are the artistic visionaries.

“Evan and I began to learn from them,” Zlokovich said. “They started picking up paint cans. I said, ‘Hey, wait, there are rules.’ It was like Pollack, de Kooning.”

And now, Paint Club has its first official show. A handful of the club’s large-scale works will be shown and auctioned off March 8 at Blue Lyon Gallery and Studio. The paintings are vivid, colorful, abstract works, full of the vibrancy and energy that come from a youthful imagination.

While Paint Club remains inside Blue Lyon’s walls right now, Zlokovich plans to take it to the building’s exterior as well. Tom Baker, one of Blue Lyon’s directors, says that the building owner has already given Paint Club permission to paint murals on the building’s west wall. Zlokovich envisions a community of both experienced and inexperienced artists coming together to paint portraits, landscapes, symbols and a variety of other images. For $15, he says, anyone will be able to buy a paintbrush and paint a section of the wall; proceeds will then be donated to local charities.

It’s all about community, Zlokovich says.

“When you get a bunch of [artists] coming together, it’s like a band of gypsies.”